Excuses were made to be put to use
The French have the brilliant expression “les excuses sont faites pour s’en servir”: excuses were made to be put to use. If that isn’t the best excuse for using excuses. Put that way, one owes it to the stock of excuses to set them free occasionally and let them have some fun. It would be rude not to.
The expression conjures an image of a dusty shelf with lots of pigeon holes, each holding a blob of different size and colour. Much like the old apothecary shelf my mother inherited from her doctor dad that we used as a library and display-a-bit-of-everything. It had a gazillion small drawers in the lower half, and cell shelves at the top. It filled an entire wall of the living room. As a child I thought it an amazing treasure trove. I could never quite remember which drawer held what because there were many more than I could count, so I liked to go open a few drawers on a rainy afternoon just to see what I might find.
Or it might look like the shelves in the Ministry in Harry Potter where the prophecies are stored. In any case, excuses are like little creatures that want to come out and play, tiny genies with a mind of their own. Take one off the shelf and it senses what you need right that moment. It will work with you if you let it, and if you have chosen wisely. Pick the wrong excuse, or fight it, and things can go badly wrong. The genie doesn’t gel with you and takes over the agenda. You end up with a story that just sounds fishy. Think Joey from Friends. Pick one that suits you, and it can carry you far and wide. No matter how outrageous the excuse, you are so attuned it just works. Whether you are convincing yourself or somebody else. Although I find it works particularly well on yourself.
You mustn’t work with the same excuse too often either. Again, think Joey: the genie gets stuck in a rut that digs a deeper ring around you every time. I did try this for a while, thinking the excuse would warm to me and get ever more personal and real. It doesn’t. It starts to enjoy its power and stops caring about you. Better to pull out a few different ones and let them vie for your attention.
Remember that you are doing excuses a favour by using them – it is ok to remind them of this from time to time. They like to shine, and they learn and get richer with every use. Which means you are really training excuses for the benefit of your fellow human beings. Noble, right?